Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

We need cool heads for marching season

After the success of the G8 summit in Fermanagh and the positive message it sent out to the world of transformation in Northern Ireland's political and social climate, it is imperative that cool heads reign during the marching season. The majority of marches are not contentious and pass off peacefully, but there are a number which pass through interface areas and have the potential to spark confrontation.

It was therefore extremely disappointing to view the actions of senior Sinn Fein politician and Policing Board member Gerry Kelly during Friday night's Tour of the North Orange parade.

He was filmed attempting to halt a police vehicle carrying a young person suspected of causing trouble. The police vehicle continued for a short distance and Mr Kelly was forced to cling on to a security grille. A Sinn Fein colleague, Caral Ni Chuilin, was injured in the incident. The party has referred the matter to the Police Ombudsman, saying it regards it as a serious incident.

The bottom line is that Mr Kelly, a former junior minister at Stormont as well as a member of the Policing Board, was interfering with the police as they performed their duty. He could have made representations about the arrest in a conventional manner. And as the video shows, the sight of him clinging to the Land Rover caused a brief flare-up of temper which, it has to be said, Mr Kelly helped calm. Yet, given the volatile nature of such confrontations, it could easily have escalated into something much more serious.

Mr Kelly has come under criticism from unionist politicians and the last thing we need at this time is a war of words and any inflammatory comments.

Mr Kelly and Ms Ni Chuilin, an Executive minister, have no more right than any other citizen to attempt to obstruct police in the line of duty and should spell out their reasons for acting as they did, the sooner the better. Attempting to deflect attention on to police won't wash in this instance.

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